"The flavor is mushroomy and even almost nutty—seriously delicious."

Last week my family and I spent some time vacationing in Seattle, and of course whenever I visit a new place my first goal is always to scope out the local cheese scene. Seattle, and the Pacific Northwest in general, has a great local cheese scene. Over the next few weeks I plan to profile some of the exciting things going on out there, starting this week with one of the best American cheeses available: Mt. Townsend Creamery's Seastack.

New Yorkers like me have access to only a subset of the wide array of artisan cheeses now being produced across the U.S. Most of the cheeses made on the eastern seaboard are available, as are some cheeses from the larger producers in the Midwest, South, and West. But what we don't get are the small batch varieties that sell out locally or are prohibitively expensive to ship across country. That's why when I travel I love to find those small-batch cheeses like Seastack that I simply can't find where I live.

Mt. Townsend Creamery is located in Port Townsend, about 60 miles northwest of Seattle on the Olympic Peninsula, an area of Washington witha long history of dairying. Owners Matt Day and Ryan Trail are committed to supporting the local dairy economy, and so they source all the milk for the cheese locally. One of the great things about the company is that its focuses more on quality than quantity; it only produces three varieties of cheese, but each one is as stellar as the next.

Seastack is a small-form, bloomy-rind pasteurized cow's milk cheese modeled after the French cheese Chaource. However, unlike Charouce, it's coated before aging in a thin layer of vegetable ash, a process that aids in the growth of the the white mold on the rind—and also just looks really pretty.

According to Mt. Townsend's website, the cheese is "semi-lactic," which means that the cheese is curdled more by lactic-acid build-up than by rennet. This leads to a velvety texture more similar to an aged goat cheese than a "normal" bloomy-rind cow's milk cheese (like Camembert). The flavor is mushroomy and even almost nutty—seriously delicious.

So next time you're in the Northwest (or if you live there but have never tried this great cheese), look out for Seastack. It's available at the Ballard and West Seattle farmers' markets, Beecher's Cheese, and DeLaurenti, and, in San Francisco, at Cowgirl Creamery in San Francisco (among other locations).

About the author: Jamie Forrest publishes Curdnerds.com from his apartment in Brooklyn, New York, where he lives with his wife, his daughter, and his cheese.

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